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Turris warming up to playoff opportunity in Ottawa

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
With each passing day, Kyle Turris can feel his comfort zone continuing to grow.

That can't be anything but good news for the Ottawa Senators, with the Stanley Cup playoffs now just around the corner and a post-season berth already assured. Especially, too, given the team's success — a sparkling 10-1-0 record — when the 22-year-old centre finds a way to light the lamp.

The native of New Westminster, B.C., has been doing plenty of that lately, racking up four goals and four assists in his last four outings. Exactly half of those points came on Sunday afternoon in Uniondale, N.Y., when Turris stepped up to the first line in the absence of No. 1 centre Jason Spezza and turned in a command performance that went a long way toward the Senators nailing down a playoff spot with a 5-1 victory over the Islanders.

"It's just the ups and downs of the season," Turris said with a grin about his recent offensive outburst, which pushed his season totals to 12 goals and 28 points in 46 games since joining the Senators in a Dec. 17 trade with the Phoenix Coyotes. "You go from being frustrated because you're not scoring for nine games to (four goals) in the last few games. It's just the tide of the season.

"You can't get too low when it's going wrong and you can't get too high when it's going well."

Clearly, however, the Senators continue to get more value from the deal with the Coyotes, which cost them defence prospect David Rundblad and a draft pick. And Turris, who felt he'd fallen out of favour in Phoenix, feels like a young man reborn in every way possible since the move to Ottawa.

"It's allowed me to be extremely comfortable," said Turris, the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. "The guys on the team have all given me confidence, the coaching staff has given me confidence and everybody's made me feel a part of the team. It allowed me to be confident, comfortable and play my game and have fun.

"I feel like I'm trying to contribute (more) and I've got to keep it going."

Senators general manager Bryan Murray acquired Turris to fill a need at the team's second-line centre position and he continues to deliver on that promise. Captain Daniel Alfredsson, who's been a regular alongside Turris since the trade, likes what he's seen from the young centre.

"He's responsible (defensively) and he's a great skater," Alfredsson said following the Senators' pre-game skate in advance of tonight's matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "He gets up and down the ice and he's getting better and better on the faceoffs. That makes life a lot easier."

Turris can't imagine life in the National Hockey League being any better than it is right now

"Since I got to Ottawa, this is by far the most comfortable I've felt (in the NHL), the most fun I've had and the most I've felt a part of a team," said Turris. "I can't thank the guys on the team, the coaching staff and the organization enough for making me feel a part of something here. It's allowed me to play better."

Soon enough, he'll take that confidence into the playoffs in a Canadian market for the first time.

"I can't wait," said a smiling Turris. "It's going to be lots of fun. It's going to be real exciting and it's something we'll be ready for (as a team)."

Around the boards

Veteran blueliner Sergei Gonchar will sit out against the Hurricanes with what head coach Paul MacLean termed a "minor" lower-body injury. It's considered a precautionary move to ensure Gonchar is good to go for the playoffs. "Our expectation is to play and play hard," MacLean said of the Senators' final three regular-season games. "But we also want to make sure we're healthy for Game 83. That's the reason Sergei won't play tonight" ... Goaltender Ben Bishop skated with the team for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury on March 24 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Alex Auld will dress as the backup tonight behind starter Craig Anderson. "Things are positive for (Bishop) and progressing and that's a good sign," said MacLean ... With a win tonight in regulation or overtime, the Senators will assure themselves of no worse than a seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference. They'd also still be in the hunt to catch the New Jersey Devils for sixth spot. For that to happen, Ottawa needs to win all three of its remaining games — including a road contest with the Devils on Saturday (3 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) — and have New Jersey also lose one other game, either tonight against the Isles or Thursday at the Detroit Red Wings. The Senators' other game is Thursday at Scotiabank Place against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) ... Fewer than 850 tickets remain for tonight's game against the 'Canes.

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